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Trinity Theological College: charity review

Care:  At least some of the information about this charity is no longer current.  Use the ‘Search charity names’ box to see if there is a later review.  If the latest review has a message like this, you are welcome to make your case for an updated review via email to ted@businessbythebook.com.au.

This is a review in the series ‘Members of Missions Interlink’, Missions Interlink being ‘the Australian network for global mission’[1]. ‘Trinity Theological College’ (Trinity) is one such member.

Both Members and Associates have to accept a set of standards, the introduction to which includes this statement:

Trinity does not invite feedback or complaints via its website.

I sent a draft of this review to the charity. They did not respond. This is consistent with lack of an invitation, on their website, to give feedback or submit complaints – but inconsistent with who they are and what they teach.


Trinity is an organisation that seeks donations online. The charities’ regulator, the ACNC, in their article, Donating to Legitimate Charities, gives “some things to consider to help you make sure your donation is going where it is intended”:

  1. Check the organisation’s name.
  2. Ask for identification from anyone seeking a donation.
  3. Be careful of online requests for donations.
  4. No tax deduction doesn’t mean the charity is not a legitimate one.
  5. Find out more about how the charity says it uses donations.

Here’s the results for Trinity’, with #5 supplemented by the essentials of the ACNC’s What should I consider when deciding which charity to support?[2]

1.  A search on the ACNC Register of charities for ‘Trinity Theological College’ brings up two charities using that name:

Trinity, the first one, is the trustee of the second charity (the General Fund).

Trinity uses the name without the ‘Inc’ but does not have this registered as a business name.


2.  Nothing on the Register or the website indicates that Trinity uses door-to-door or street collectors.


3.  Trinity’s ‘Donate Now’ page has “a closed padlock symbol next to the website’s URL in the address bar”. PayPal is used, so your information should be secure.


4.  The ABN record says that no tax deduction is available for a donation to Trinity, but that one is available for a donation to its funds, Trinity Theological College Building Fund and Trinity Theological College Inc Library Fund.

There is no description of how to donate to these funds on the ‘Donate Now’ page (see above). But a Google site search on the …Building Fund reveals that the ‘choose your preferred Way to Donate’ on that page leads to this information:

The seal is the charity regulator’s ‘tick’. It just means that, apart from being registered with them, the charity’s AIS is not overdue, and that no compliance action has been take against it.

The second and third options are the two funds for which a tax deduction is available.

The first option is incorrectly labelled: this is a collection for a separate charity, the General Fund. This charity is a public ancillary fund, and it is wrong to imply that donations to this fund can automatically be used by Trinity. One of the required characteristics of such a fund is that

Trinity does not explain on the website how the General Fund is able to transfer money to Trinity, a non-DGR entity.

Somewhat hidden – it is incorrectly in the policy note on Revenue – is the answer: the General Fund distributes the funds to Australian College of Theology Ltd, a DGR, and the College in turn makes a donation to Trinity. Why the College would make such a donation – in this case 36% of Trinity’s revenue – is not explained[3].

Here, from The Report of Council [Financial Report 2018], and also the ACNC Register, are the directors responsible for these decision[4]:

Bruce Dodd (and here)

Tim Flavell

John Murray

Craig Newill

Donald West

Nigel Gordon


5.  The use of your donations

Mission / Purpose



See ‘About Us’ and ‘Study’ in the main menu.[5]


Sharing the Gospel?[5]

As part of the curriculum, yes.


Giving options online

There is only one on the ‘Donate Now’ page. Two others are available (see above), but the link to them from that page is not clear.


How donations are used

The audited account of how donations are used is the Financial Report 2018 on the ACNC Register.

There are some issues with Trinity’s accounting/reporting:

  1. As seen above, Trinity collects donations for another charity, a charity that it controls. Despite this, it does not present a consolidated picture in its financial report.
  2. Contrary to the Accounting Standards, Trinity does not depreciate its ‘theological collection’ (library). Assets are therefore overstated, and the deficit understated.
  3. Due to previous incorrect accounting for its buildings and its library, Trinity made a 16% decrease to its 2017 equity ($1.56 million) in 2018.
  4. Donations to the two DGR funds are not included in revenue from operating activities.

Cash spent

This is the only information about where the cash went on operating activities (with last year in the second column):


The General Fund


Resources consumed (i.e. accrual)

How do ‘Outgoings’ differ from all the other outgoings listed here?

The General Fund



Trinity does not address the impact of its work.




  1. https://missionsinterlink.org.au/about/
  2. Focus on the nature of the charity’s work, its beneficiaries and the impact the charity is having in the community. Is it clear what the charity is trying to achieve and how its activities work towards its objectives? Would you like to spend your money, or time if volunteering, to support these objectives?Is the charity being transparent about its activities? [A section in the article, Donating and Volunteering].
  3. One has to go to the College’s financial statements to get the answer:
  4. The website shows the same people. They are accountable to the members. There are 31 members (trustees) shown on the website.
  5. ‘When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett says this about sharing the Gospel: ‘A host of contextual issues determine the best manner and the appropriate time to present the gospel verbally, particularly in militant Muslim or Hindu settings. But without such a presentation, it is not possible for people to be personally transformed in all their relationships, which is what poverty alleviation is all about [Kindle Locations 1262-1264, Moody Publishers].
  6. Although this level of disclosure may be compliant with the letter of the applicable Accounting Standard ( AASB 107), it is not consistent with either the intent of the Standard and paragraphs 14 and 19, or what is reasonable to expect from a major Christ-led charity that is reporting a true and fair view.